Fatal Crashes Caused by Unsafe Roads
Driver error is a leading cause of fatal car accidents. But other factors out of a driver’s control, such as poorly designed roads and roadway defects, also can be responsible.
There’s no shortage of negligent driver behavior that can lead to catastrophic wrecks. These include:
- Drunk driving
- Distracted driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released a recap of the nation’s motor vehicle accidents. The data is from 2019, the most recent year with final figures.
According to the report (“2019 Summary of Motor Vehicle Crashes”), more than 36,000 people died that year in motor vehicle accidents. NHTSA documents that, between 2010 and 2019, the number of fatal crashes increased almost 10%. Over that same period, the number of people killed in car and truck accidents jumped from 32,999 to 36,096.
Drunk Drivers in Fatal Crashes
The NHTSA report highlights a few dangerous driving behaviors that can cause serious car crashes. Drunk driving is one of them.
In 2019, 10,142 people died in alcohol-related crashes, or 28% of all driving fatalities that year.
An overwhelming majority of those who died – 68% - were involved in crashes in which one driver tested almost double the legal limit for alcohol. That threshold is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08%. Per the 2019 report, nearly 7,000 of the 2019 deaths resulted from a crash in which one of the drivers had a BAC of at least .15%
Speeding Drivers in Fatal Crashes
Almost 9,500 people were killed in 2019 accidents in which at least one driver was speeding. Speeding drivers accounted for more than one-quarter of driving fatalities that year.
The report also noted that those who were driving drunk were also more likely to speed, an often deadly combination. Almost 40% of drivers who were speeding and involved in a fatal crash had a BAC of at least .08%, compared to 15% of those not speeding at the time of the fatal accident. And 26% of speeding drivers in a fatal motor vehicle accident had a BAC of .15% or higher, compared to 10% of non-speeding drivers in a fatal crash.
Another NHTSA report, released in April, focused on distracted driving crashes in 2019 (“Distracted Driving 2019”). That year, 9% of fatal accidents were classified as distraction-affected crashes. NHTSA pinpointed some leading examples of driver distractions:
- Distracted by other vehicle occupants
- Distracted by a moving object in the vehicle, such as a pet or a dropped object
- Talking or listening on a cell phone
- Texting on a cell phone
- Adjusting climate or audio controls
A recent media report, however, asserts that other sources outside of driver negligence are underreported as causes of fatal crashes.
The Atlantic recently published an online story alleging that a systemic problem with America’s roads as well as unsafe vehicle designs are under-the-radar causes of fatal motor vehicle accidents.
According to the report, motor vehicle crash deaths fell some 36% between 2010 and 2020 in the European Union, while U.S. traffic accident deaths rose more than 10% during the same time. The story explains that EU regulators are more prone to redesign roads after serious traffic crashes compared to U.S. agencies.
It also asserts the EU has been tougher with carmakers, requiring them to build safer vehicles especially for pedestrians and cyclists, compared to the U.S. government.
Poorly Designed Roads and Roadway Defects
The recently passed infrastructure bill, providing federal funds to fix the nation’s roads and bridges, puts a spotlight on America’s dangerous roadways. Roadway defects can catch even the most cautious drivers off guard, putting their lives and the lives of others at risk.
Examples of roadway defects that can cause fatal crashes include:
- Broken or missing guardrails
- Unsafe roadway shoulders
And the report claims that assigning blame for fatal crashes so heavily on drivers helps allow U.S. automakers to escape scrutiny for their potentially unsafe car and truck designs.
If you were seriously injured or lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, an experienced St. Louis car accident attorney can conduct a detailed investigation into all possible causes and responsible parties, and pursue justice from them on your behalf.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.